What can we learn form SPAIN’s World Cup Victory in the world of Software ?

I am a soccer fan, I also watch tennis & basketball but only soccer gets to me. A couple of weeks ago Netherlands and Spain played in the world cup final. Originally, I did not know which team I really wanted to win, I always loved Netherlands (I loved Marc Overmars for those who remember they 1998 world cup my heart was broken when Netherlands lost against Croatia in the 3rd place match) and I always looked up to Spain as the best soccer team to not win the world cup and not ever be in a final. As the game progressed I found myself rooting for Spain, the Spanish team won my soccer heart. Looking at how they were able to defeat Netherland as a team inspired me to look at what lessons I can learn from them as software developer.


So what can I learn from the Spanish team's journey in this world cup ?


  1. Ball Possession --> Consistency in User Experience : The first trait and the main reason for Spain's victory in my opinion is their high ball possession percentage. Not only in the final game but in all the games they played in the world cup the averaged 68%. The Spanish team is CONSISTENT with regards to their ball possession. If the Spanish team was a piece of software, their users will love them because of their consistency in experience.  When designing software that interacts with users I need to be consistent in the experience my software provides. I should not have a different UI design/experience for different features, one that exposes options through menus, other that uses tool bars etc. Inconsistency hurts the software's (1) Trust ability - you have higher probability that your users will lose trust in your software (2) Learnability - users will have a hard time learning your software cause they need to learn using every feature in a different manner (plus other things but I will stick with these 2 for now).
  2. Number of Goals --> Features : Spain might be the nation to win the world cup with the least number of goals ever. If goals were to soccer like features are to software, the Spanish team would be the piece of software with the least number of features that customer love and prefer over other feature loaded software. When developing software I need to find the right balance of the number of features to have and the quality of those features and how they interact together. In my opinion It is better to have a smaller set of elegant, complete, easy to use features that the customers fall in love with than have an application fully loaded with hundreds of features that just do not go together or that are not well thought of.
  3. Substitutions --> React to customer needs : Watching how the coach used his substitutions (I am talking about Navas and Fabregas here not Tores) to change the game made me think, as a software engineer I need to be the coach of my software. I need to understand what is not working well in my software for the customer and substitute those features. I need to understand how my customer uses my software and make the right moves to win the customers over. I need to find out what are the features that I can add that will change the game and make my software better.


There is a lot that we can learn from soccer in life … looking forward to World Cup 2014 lessons 🙂

Comments (3)

  1. sql-troubles says:

       Let me start by saying that in football the substitutions are not necessarily made for customers’ sake, in this case the public/fans, but for the need to win the game, to keep the game in balance or to replace a tired/injured player with a fresher one. I understand your parallelism and even if I accept it, I can’t fully agree with it. Substituting features in software make sense only when you are replacing an existing feature with a more general one that keeps the initial behavior but provides additional functionality. I don’t think is the same as in manufacturing, where you could replace the component A by B, B having the same dimensions as A, but different/same technology, possibly coming from another vendor. By removing features or by changing the behavior of a feature, even if those features are used for a small number of customers, then you are starting to diminish the trust the customer has in your software and your policy. There are also chances that I misunderstood what you meant by “what is not working well” and substitution – I think that there should be a delimitation between fixing or making a feature appropriate for use (e.g. by adding a new parameter that derives a new set of behavior though that includes the previous behavior of the feature), enhancing (brining more features or improving existing ones), respectively substituting a feature (with a feature that maybe provides partially what you need, but it might not include some of the functionality). It's true is kind of a gray area in which the three concepts – fixing, enhancing and substituting have common meaning.

      Spain had luck to win with the smallest number of goals, and I believe there were few teams that won football championships (including country or continental competitions) with a small number of goals, though they shown that that’s possible. The Spanish, same as Netherlands, were pragmatic teams, scoring enough to win the game – it can be regarded also as a measure of efficiency. They seemed to force enough as to score one more goal than the opponent, while teams that scored more than two goals per game were generally inconstant. Now both teams were powerful, Spain won the games by possession, fast combinative games, with short but precise passes, with several players that were capable of coordinating the game, with D. Villa a born goal-getter, and we should not forget that almost half of the team was built on the skeleton of another successful football team, namely F.C. Barcelona, while the same team had won the European Championship two years ago, so a team which tasted the sweet taste of success; as for Netherlands, they were a competitive fighting team, with fast, powerful and technique players, ready to give everything on the field, and, as we could see in the final, a little too determined to win, with any price. Actually I could say that the thirst for victory made both teams to forget about fair play, and frankly I was expecting more from this game, but given the importance of the game, we kind of got use to have this kind of game in final when the two teams are sensible euqal.

        Now coming to software, you are right, the software must be customer-focused, provide the minimal features the customer needs and would make the customer buy the software, while for the other features the customer might need, incorporate them in a more expensive version, whose price should reflect again the same characteristic – balance between features, price (and quality), and customers’ readiness to pay for them. I would say that doesn’t necessarily work the same in football, the fans even if they are craving for victories, as in software development, they want also quality – a good play from his favorite team and as many as possible goals, and they might even be satisfied when the team lost but played honorably and gave all it could. You’ll (almost) never find a customer saying, you know, we appreciate your effort, the fact that you tried to provide us a software that is not meeting our requirements, we paid for it, we put lot of effort and passion in it, but doesn’t work as it supposed to, amidst this good job!

    Despite the above comments, I liked your post :), good job! I tried yesterday to make a parallelism between football and software development, actually insisting more on project management side of it, you could find it here if you are interested: sql-troubles.blogspot.com/…/football-and-software-development.html.

  2. yohasna says:

    @Adrian : Thanks for taking the time to read my post. I agree with most of what you said. I liked your post as well 🙂

  3. soccerjerseys says:

    This article is novel, I really love it. I also have some ideas written in my article, you can have a look if you have the interest. We can also discuss different topics.

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